25 September, 2017

Being an aunt

Being an aunt when you're living a No Kidding life can be beautiful and special and bittersweet. Being an aunt of a child with serious health issues makes it even more complicated. I watch my sister deal with the health issues every morning and evening when important and time-consuming routines that are a chore to her nine-year-old are necessary, and I watch her deal with the issues at every meal, hearing every cough, and probably every time she looks at her daughter, and feel nothing but respect for her daily battles. I take on these tasks gladly when I become the care-giver, as I was this weekend when we drove seven or so hours north to relieve my sister and brother-in-law so they could attend a conference (related to my niece's condition).

And in between the care-giving, we made a cushion together, had dinner at our niece's favourite restaurant complete with neon mocktails, played badminton on the lawn, chased a young heifer that had got loose from next door, watched her play basketball on Friday night and go on her riding lesson the next morning, saw her practice her gymnastics routine, and all the other things you do with an active nine-year-old. Then we curled up with the cat, and watched Moana together.

When we left this morning - too soon, but necessary, because we have elderly relatives at this end of the island who need care-giving too - it was with sadness that we won't see her again for a while. But there are also complicated and confused emotions, knowing that I wouldn't wish my sister's concerns on anyone, and feeling relief that I am not the one primarily bearing that burden, but also knowing that there is great joy in her role as well as great fear and sadness, and that I would have willingly born these myself, if I had had the chance.

18 September, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday Musings

1.  I recently saw the issue of guilt come up (as it does regularly) in a blog, and recognised that fear of enjoying something new, or of finding that we appreciate part of our lives without children. This is such a common emotion, and so I just wanted to say again that enjoying any aspect of our lives that results from the fact that we don’t have children, or just feeling happy, does not mean that we think our lives are better than having children (though that thought is fine too), it just means we’re simply making the most of our life now.

2.  When our infertility doesn’t resolve with a child, suddenly we feel more vulnerable, our lives suddenly more reliant on one or two people in our lives who are important, and I think it’s not uncommon to fear the loss of our partners. I travelled internationally for work for many years before our losses and infertility, but was shocked at the strength of my emotions the first time I travelled without my husband after our infertility journey ended. I think it was normal to feel this too, but I’m pleased to say that I think it is also normal to recognise that the years pass, emotions calm, and now I feel much less vulnerable, or perhaps more accurately, I’m more comfortable with my vulnerability.

3.  Finally, I wanted to note that recently someone in my life implied that the things I was interested in were not important to other people – though I know that they meant parents. After a little twinge, I began to laugh, because I could immediately think of several parents who I know feel exactly the same as I do, and so I knew in my heart that the person making the comment was wrong, or they were just trying to cover up their own disappointments. So once again, confronting those negative comments and rejecting their very premise, helped me get over what could otherwise have been a very hurtful encounter. 

15 September, 2017

Gifts of Infertility Series - #24 – Self-Discovery

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post on this series, not because I’ve struggled to find a topic to write about, but because I wanted to make the most of the last two items in this series, and before now didn't quite feel I could commit to this.

The 24th in my list of the Gifts of Infertility is really a summation of many of the other items. It is one of the biggest gifts of the heartbreak that came from infertility and loss. It is self-discovery, and hasn’t just helped me deal with infertility, but has spread into all aspects of my life.

Self-discovery and personal growth often come out of difficult times. Sure, there are plenty of people who go through difficult times and come out of it just as selfish as they were before, just as some people come out feeling much more afraid, less trusting, and more self-focused than they were before this. But after a long time, I certainly recognise the benefits of the personal growth that resulted from of those difficult years.

Self-discovery does not mean that we have all the answers. I think that self-discovery means that we are more open to the realities of who we are, and can face up to both our talents and our flaws.

I have a lot of flaws. I think I’m aware of most of them, as I admit them to myself even if I won’t always admit them to others – just in case they haven’t noticed (yes, I live in hope). What I’ve learned though is that it doesn’t help me if I berate myself over them. I’ve learned to try to change them if I can, to face them – as I faced my shyness when I left on a student exchange when I was 17 – as issues that need to be dealt with or lived with, rather than to judge myself because of these issues.

Self-discovery came to me when I allowed myself to grieve. It came to me when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, to really feel emotions, rather than tamp them down. It came to me when I needed to think about what made me happy, after spending a long time of being very sad. It came to me when I needed to look at what I had, because looking at what I didn’t have wasn’t doing me any good. It came to me when I showed self-compassion, and so could face my flaws without terrible guilt and self-hatred and shame. It came to me when I was as kind to myself as I would be to friends and family, when I stopped beating myself up.

Self-discovery came to me when I saw what worked, and was honest about what didn’t. It came to me when I dropped the judgement, and tried to be productive instead. It came to me when I learned more about others, and that helped me learn more about myself. Self-discovery came to me through hard work and tears. It came to me through love and compassion. It came to me from inside myself, and from learning from other wise women who were walking alongside me and helping me.

Self-discovery is a continuing journey, applicable in all aspects of my life. It is a journey that can still bring disappointment in myself, and could easily be halted by shame. But if I don’t allow the shame to take hold again, if I can commit to the honesty required to get past it, self-discovery can also deliver satisfaction and joy and confidence and growth. The best thing about it is that it can banish a lot of fear, and that results in self-imposed burdens tumble from my shoulders. That freedom has allowed me to embrace the future, whatever it might bring. Self-discovery truly is one of the ongoing gifts of infertility.

12 September, 2017

Talking about Grief

Lisa on Life Without Baby recently talked about talking grief on her blog, and she made some good points – you should go check it out – and asked some good questions too, unwittingly giving me my blog topic (thanks Lisa) for today.

 How has your grief changed over time? It no longer dominates my day, my thoughts, my feelings, as it might have in the early years, and now, even when it occasionally still pops up and I honour my losses by giving it time, it no longer has the power to destroy the day for me.

How has your loss changed you? It has changed me in many ways, and they are largely summed up in my Gifts of Infertility series, but there are negatives too. I’m stronger, but I’m more fragile too in ways; I know I am vulnerable, and I feel that more intensely, but that helps me appreciate what and who I have in my life more intensely too

In what ways has your grief crept out, even when you’ve tried to keep it under wraps? It creeps out much less these days, whereas in the past it manifested in strong emotion, tears or a suddenly shaky voice , or presented itself in unexpected anger (not always expressed) at what others would think were innocuous statements or actions.

04 September, 2017

Cats aren't kids

It was Father’s Day here in New Zealand yesterday, and fortunately there had been little build-up to bother me or my husband (or so I thought). 

We got together with my father-in-law on Saturday night, because I had wisely advised our visiting relatives that it would be impossible for us to go out and get a table at any “quiet” café for Sunday lunch (a prospect I have avoided for 17 years and counting), and suggested that a dinner together would be much better received by the FIL (as I know it would).

So we made a fuss of this rather frail elderly man, which we were going to do anyway as his eldest grandchildren was leaving the next day, and then the other son and the rest of his family were leaving the day after, and he feels their departure overseas deeply every time they leave. I was fine with doing that, but the brother-in-law kept trying to insert the fact that he was a father into the proceedings. I interjected once or twice, pointing out that it was up to his family to celebrate Father’s Day for him the next day, and that Saturday night and the dinner we were enjoying was all about his Dad.

I was surprised however, when my husband spoke up, pointing out that they should all feel sorry for him, because he doesn’t get a Father’s Day ever, missing out completely. There was a brief, stunned silence, then everyone decided to toast him, and my niece cheerfully said that he needed to get some cats again, because then he’d be able to celebrate Father’s Day. It was nicely meant, rather than being blatantly insensitive, and we all laughed (but felt the difference) when my husband said,

“but they can’t buy me presents.”